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July 14, 2015

Live-blogging President Obama's big criminal justice reform speech to NAACP

After having waited a few hours for Prez Obama to finally make it to the podium at the NAACP's 106th National Convention, he is finally now, just short of 5pm ET, getting start with a widely-anticipated speech about the need for crimnal justice reform.  After sitting here waiting, I will do some live-blogging just to make the wait feel worthwhile:

Speech starts with praise for NAACP's work and then turns to problems and deficiencies facing minority youth, "our children, America's children."  But today, says Prez Obama, he wants to focus on our criminal justice system and the impact it has on minority populations and the "long history of inequity in the criminal justice system in America."

Notes that the "eyes of more Americans have been openned" to truths about America's criminal justice system.  Notes that "our incarceration rate is four times higher than China's" and that our prison poluation has quadrupled since 1980.  But "we need to be honest that ... there are some folks who need to be in jail .... murderers, predators, drug kingpins."  Not evidence that tougher sentences have contibuted to crime decline, but that it reaches a point of diminishing return.  Focus on distinguishing violent offenders from non-violent, drug offenders.

States "in far too many cases, the punishment does not fit the crime."  And we are spending $80 billion on incarceration --- an amount that would allow universal preschool or doubling the salary of all teachers.  "For what it costs in incarceration for one year, we could eliminate cost of tuition at all the public universities and colleges."  Praise for Rand Paul saying we spend too much on non-violent drug offenders with no public safety benefit.

There are cost that cannot be measured in dollars and cents, says Obama, as he turns to a discussion of racial disparities and the impact on communities of color.  This is not just anecdote, statistics bear out disparities at every stage of criminal justice processing.

"Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it!"  The good news is that Republicans and Democrats agree on the need for reform, with "Van Jones and Newt Gingrich" and "NAACP and Koch Brothers" working on reforms.

Finishing speech by laying out basic principles in three areas: (1) in the community, (2) in the courtroom, and (3) in the cellblock.  

In the community: if we make investments early in our children, we save money in the future on criminal justice costs.  Investing in our community saves taxpayer money if we are consistent about it.  Stresses that we need to treat kids in community equally, remembering that "kids are different" so we do not "tag them as future criminals, but reach out to them as future citizens."

In the courtroom: we need to lower or eliminate entirely mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.  We need to invest in alternatives to prison, which can save taxpayers thousands each year.  Congress should pass a sentencing reform act this year.

In the cellblock: notes he will be first sitting Prez to visit a federal prison on Thursday, and I am going to shine a spotlight on this issue.  People in our prisons, though they have made mistakes, they are also Americans and we need to "increase the possibility they can turn their lives around."  If somebody in the midst of imprisonment recognizes the error of their ways, we have to make sure they are in a position to make the turn.  We should not be tolerating overcrowding, gang activity or rape in prison.  "These things are unacceptable!"  I have asked my attorney general to investigating to overuse of solitary confinement.  Prisons shoudl train people to find a job, not train them to be more hardened criminals.

UPDATE: The Marshall Project provides here a review of key passages from Prez Obama's NAACP speech on criminal justice reform. It sets up its review this way:

Whether or not you agree with President Obama about the need for criminal justice reform, it is undeniable that the speech he delivered in Philadelphia on Tuesday to the annual convention of the NAACP broke new ground.  Many presidents have spoken before, and some with great ardor, about law and order.  But no sitting president has ever publicly spoken at such length and in such detail as Obama now has about the persistent problems of crime and punishment in this country.

July 14, 2015 at 04:58 PM | Permalink


The supersonic speed of the spinning lie meter is only exceeded by that of the meter measuring the left out facts.

There is so much lying, and so much Kissinger lying, I cannot reply nor even cope with this dangerous and irresponsible pro-criminal, community devastating propaganda.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 14, 2015 9:51:16 PM

SC, I'd be interested to hear what you consider lies in the speech -- with linked citations to the record where possible. Thanks.

Posted by: Ain't Nick | Jul 15, 2015 10:48:38 AM

This speech is just another recent example of politicians saying things that they believe resonate with the public. It like all the others is nothing but the sound of wind. At least Obama, unlike the others, isn't running and will never run again for office.

None of the speeches have addressed how the War on Drugs has caused a massive flow of dollars to the South and how nothing has been done to stanch this flow. The War on Drugs and the creation of Incarceration Nation was a sustained bi-partisan effort spanning decades. No politician can escape responsibility for its failure and the harm it has caused both here and in the South.

Yet while the most important news, as well as damning proof of the failure of the War on Drugs, is Shorty Guzman's recent escape from prison through a tunnel estimated to have cost 50 million dollars, we get 46 commutations, this speech, and a bunch of republicans complaining about the commutations.

Yes, drugs from the South destroy our communities and ruin untold lives in this country. But the 50 million dollars to build the tunnel and the unknown dollars spent on bribes to make it happen came from our country.

Mexico was never going to extradite him. Too many people there and a non-trivial number of people here could not afford to have him earn a 5K motion.

Posted by: Fred | Jul 15, 2015 11:06:57 PM

AN: To keep things simple and concise.

The single biggest lie is a Kissinger lie. This is lying by omission.

Bastardy is the cause of the racial disparity in all social pathologies, including criminality. It is caused by the all out assault on the patriarchal family by the vile feminist lawyer.

Posted by: AN: | Jul 16, 2015 1:19:47 AM

AN: To keep things simple and concise.

The single biggest lie is a Kissinger lie. This is lying by omission. In Senate testimony of the state of the State Department, Kissinger did not mention the illegal carpet bombing of Cambodia to attack the Viet Cong supply roads. Later, when asked how he could omit such an important event, Kissinger replied, "They didn't ask me."

Bastardy is the cause of the racial disparity in all social pathologies, including criminality. It is caused by the all out assault on the patriarchal family by the vile feminist lawyer. One of the reasons to leave it out is that it is official federal government to take down the white family, after destroying the black family, with a bastardy rate of 70%. The white rate is being quickly pumped up, and is now at 40%. As that one reaches 70%, I predict that the racial disparity will disappear over the next 30 years.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 16, 2015 1:26:05 AM

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